The price ranges shown are the approximate amount one should expect to have to pay for a Rolleiflex in excellent, but used, condition. Camera should be fully functional as a classic camera with a mostly clean appearance, showing light signs of use or age. Mechanics should be working fully, but may need a CLA service. Pricing was gathered from sales on photo.net, ebay auctions, KEH.com, Kohs.com, and other camera dealers. Prices are biased towards ebay auctions. Expect to pay +10 to +20% more buying from a dealer. You should also budget $ 200-$400 for a good CLA ( clean, lube and adjust ) if you plan to use the camera regularly. In fact, many cameras that have had professional CLA's done by folks like Fleenor or Krikor, can demand much more on ebay. Similar to Leica values - the exact condition of the camera - will determine final price. High premiums are paid for minty cameras.
Because there are many ways in which Rolleiflex cameras are categorized, this list may differ slightly to other lists. Its best to utilize the serial # to identify your exact model and variation within that model line. Planar Rollei's typically sell for more than Xenotar fitted cameras. Lastly, models with the optional meter installed are generally worth more than a non-metered camera, if the meter is working. The price of a Rolleiflex on ebay varies widely for the same exact model. - it pays to watch prices before buying. A late 2.8F camera, for example, frequently sell over a range of $ 1,000-2,400 ! The standard deviation on these cameras is enormous. I attribute this to the fact that there is a large supply of used Rollei's in circulation and, that many buyers and sellers are confused as to the exact model in question.
Market Update, APRIL 2021
Where the serial number is typically found on most models
About 35,000 produced from 1929-32. 75mm Tessar 4.5 or 3.8 Lens. *Prices can be much higher for early variations ($200-400). Compur shutter 1/300 to 1, B + T. 28.5mm Taking lens filter. Heidoscop Anastigmat 75mm F3.1 viewing lens.
About 95,000 produced from 1932-38. 75mm Tessar 4.5, 3.8 or 3.5 lens. Compur Rapid shutter 1/500 to 1, B + T ( early versions Compur to 1/300 ). 28.5mm Taking lens filter. Heidoscop Anastigmat 75mm F3.1 viewing lens.
Standard Rolleiflex, New Model
Serial # 805000-927999 from 1939-41. 75mm Tessar 3.5 lens. Bay I. Compur Rapid shutter 1/500 to 1, B + T. Heidoscop Anastigmat 75mm F3.1 viewing lens.
Serial # 568516-805000 from 1937-39. 75mm Tessar 3.5 lens. Compur Rapid shutter 1/500 to 1, B + T. Heidoscop Anastigmat 75mm F2.8 viewing lens. Bay I.
Rolleiflex Automat Type 2
Serial # 805000-1099999 from 1939-45. 75mm Tessar 3.5, Opton 75/3.5 or Xenar 75/3.5 lens. Bay I. Heidoscop Anastigmat 75mm F2.8 viewing lens.
Rolleiflex Automat Type 3 ("X")
Serial # 1100000-1168000 from 1949-51. 75mm Tessar 3.5, Opton 75/3.5 or Xenar 75/3.5 lens. Bay I. Compur Rapid shutter 1/500 to 1, B + T with X sync.
Rolleiflex Automat Type 4 ("MX")
Serial # 1200001-1474999 from 1951-54. 75mm Tessar 3.5, Opton 75/3.5 or Xenar 75/3.5 lens. After Serial # 128xxxx, internal baffles added. Synchro Compur shutter 1/500 to 1, B + T and MX sync.
Rolleiflex Automat Type 5 ("MX-EVS")
Serial # 1428001-1739999 from 1954-56. 75mm Tessar 3.5, Opton 75/3.5 or Xenar 75/3.5 lens. Internal baffles added, larger focus knob, EVS system. Synchro Compur shutter 1/500 to 1, B + T and MX sync with EVS system.
Rolleiflex 2.8A Type 1
-Serial # 1100001-1164999 from 1949/50. About 7870 produced. 80mm Tessar 2.8 lens. Heidoscop-Anastigmat 80mm F2.8 viewing lens. Interchangeable finder loupe. Parallax control. Compur Rapid shutter to 1/400. Bay II unique to this model.
Rolleiflex 2.8A Type 2
-Serial # 1201000-1204999 from 1951. About 2000 produced. 80mm Tessar 2.8 lens. Heidoscop-Anastigmat 80mm F2.8 viewing lens. Interchangeable finder loupe. Parallax control. Compur Rapid MX shutter to 1/500. Bay II unique to this model.
Rolleiflex 2.8B Type 1
-Serial # 1220000-1220999 from 1952-53. 80mm Biometer 2.8 lens. Bay III. Heidoscop-Anastigmat 80mm F2.8 viewing lens. Very few made, about 1000. Interchangeable finder loupe. Parallax control. Compur Rapid MX.
Rolleiflex 2.8B Type 2
-Serial # 1241000-1260000 from 1952-53. 80mm Biometer 2.8 lens. Bay III. Heidoscop-Anastigmat 80mm F2.8 viewing lens. Only 250 made. Interchangeable finder loupe. Parallax control. Synchro Compur. 3 point accessory mask on hood.
Rolleiflex 2.8C Type 1
-Serial # 1260250-1299999 from 1953-54. About 30150 made of type 1 & 2 combined. 80mm Xenotar F2.8 lens. Internal baffles added, larger focus knob, adjustable focusing magnifier. Heidosmat 80mm F2.8 viewing lens. Parallax control. Bay III. Synchro Compur. 3 point accessory mask on hood.
Rolleiflex 2.8C Type 2
-Serial # 1400000-1475405 from 1954-55. Mostly fitted with 80mm Planar F2.8 lens, some early with Xenotar lens. Internal baffles added, larger focus knob, adjustable focusing magnifier. Heidosmat 80mm F2.8 viewing lens. Parallax control. Bay III. Synchro-Compur. 3 point accessory mask on hood.
-Serial # 1600000-1620100 from 1955-56. About 20,100 made. 80mm Xenotar 2.8 or Planar 80/2.8 lens. Very similiar to 2.8C, now has EVS System, double exposure capability. Heidosmat 80mm F2.8 viewing lens. Synchro-Compur shutter 1/500 to 1, B. Bay III.
-Serial # 1621000-1665999 from 1956-59. About 44000 made. 80mm Xenotar 2.8 or Planar 80/2.8 lens. Built-in, uncoupled meter, Automatic DOF Indicator. Heidosmat 80mm F2.8 viewing lens. Synchro-Compur shutter 1/500 to 1, B. Bay III.
Rolleiflex 2.8E E2
-Serial # 2350000-2356999 from 1959-60. About 7000 made. 80mm Xenotar 2.8, Planar 80/2.8 or Opton 80/2,8 lens. Optional uncoupled meter, detachable hood, improved focus screen. Synchro-Compur shutter 1/500 to 1, B. Bay III.
Rolleiflex 2.8E E3
-Serial # 2360000-2362024 from 1962-65. About 2025 made. 80mm Xenotar 2.8, Planar 80/2.8 or Opton 80/2,8 lens. Optional uncoupled meter. EVS system. detachable hood, improved focus screen. Bay III.
Rolleiflex 3.5E Type 1
Serial # 1740000-1787999 from 1956-59. About 26000 made. 75mm Planar F3.5 lens. Built-in meter. However, cameras with Xenotar had no meter ( unless installed later ). Bay II. Non-removable finder hood.
Rolleiflex 3.5E Type 2
-Serial # 1850000-1869999 from 1957-59. About 17000 made.75mm Xenotar F3.5. Meter optional. Bay II. Non-removable finder hood.
Rolleiflex 3.5E E2 Type 1
-Serial # 1870000-1872999 from 1959-60. Very few made, about 2010. Serial # will be preceeded with "E2" marking. Meter could be installed. 75mm Xenotar 3.5 or Planar 75/3.5 lens. Detachable hood. Bay II.
Rolleiflex 3.5E E2 Type 2
-Serial # 2480000-2481999 from 1961-62. Very Few Made, about 2000. Meter could be installed. 75mm Xenotar 3.5, Planar 75/3.5 or Opton 75/3.5 lens. Detachable hood. Bay II.
Rolleiflex 3.5E E3
-Serial # 2380000-2385034 from 1961-65. About 5035 made. 75mm Xenotar 3.5, Planar 75/3.5 or Opton 75/3.5 lens. Meter could be installed. EVS system. Detachable hood. Bay II. Distance between lenses expanded from 42mm to 45mm. The Xenotar lenses were changed to 6 elements. The Planar was changed to 6 elements starting with lens serial # 2753002.
Rolleiflex T Type 1
Serial # 2100000-2199999 from 1958-66. About 99000? made. Grey and black versions. 75mm Tessar 3.5 lens or Opton 75/3.5 lens. Meter optional. Synchro-Compur MXV shutter 1/500 to 1, B. Rollei expert Alex Pearlman remarks that the Tessar on the Rolleiflex T utilizes Lanthanum glass for improved resolution and color correction. Detachable hood, improved focus screen. Heidosmat 75mm F2.8 viewing lens. Bay I. Metered models bring more $
Rolleiflex T Type 2
-Serial # 2220000-2228999 from 1966-68. Mostly About 9000 made. Shutter has X synchronization only. 75mm Tessar 3.5 lens or Opton 75/3.5 lens. Meter optional. Prices vary widely depending on condition. Heidosmat 75mm F2.8 viewing lens. Bay I. Metered models bring more $
Rolleiflex T Type 3
-Serial # 2242000-on. From 1971-76. About 18,000 made. Mostly Black. Rollei-Werke nameplate on camera now. 75mm Tessar 3.5 lens or Opton 75/3.5 lens. Meter optional. Synchro-Compur VX shutter 1/500 to 1, B. Prices vary widely depending on condition. Add $ 150 for "White Face" version ( "Type 4" T ). Heidosmat 75mm F2.8 viewing lens. Bay I. Metered models bring more $.
-Serial # 2200000-2229999 from 1958-60. About 20000 made. 75mm Xenotar 3.5 or Planar 75/3.5 lens. Heidosmat 75mm F2.8 viewing lens. Synchro-Compur MXV shutter 1/500 to 1, B. Optional coupled meter, has detachable hood, improved focus screen, eye level viewing, distance scale in meters or feet. Bay II.
Rolleiflex 3.5F Type 2
-Serial # 2230000-2241500 from 1960. About 11500 made. 75mm Xenotar 3.5 or Planar 75/3.5 lens. Heidosmat 75mm F2.8 viewing lens. Synchro-Compur shutter MXV 1/500 to 1, B. Optional coupled meter, has detachable hood, improved focus screen, eye level viewing. Provision for 220 Film. Bay II. Distance scale in meters or feet. Accepts plate glass back.
Rolleiflex 3.5F Type 3
-Serial # 2250000-2810000 from 1960-69. 75mm Xenotar 3.5 or Planar 75/3.5 lens. Heidosmat 75mm F2.8 viewing lens. Synchro-Compur shutter MXV 1/500 to 1, B. Optional coupled meter, has detachable hood, improved focus screen, eye level viewing. Provision for 220 Film. Bay II. Accepts plate glass back. Distance scale in meters AND feet after Serial # 2298816. Serial #'s after 2299547 accept both 120 and 220 film. After Lens Serial # 2753002, the Planar lens had 6 elements. After Serial # 2299547, the Xenotar lens had 6 elements.
Rolleiflex 3.5F Type 4
-Serial # 2810000-on from 1969-71. 75mm Xenotar 3.5 or Planar 75/3.5 lens. Heidosmat 75mm F2.8 viewing lens. Synchro-Compur MXV shutter 1/500 to 1, B. Optional coupled meter, has detachable hood, improved focus screen, eye level viewing. 12/24 Frame Counter. Bay II. Does not accept plate glass back. Distance scale in meters AND feet. 6 element lenses.
Rolleiflex 3.5F Type 5
-Serial # 2840000-on. From 1971-on. 75mm Xenotar 3.5 or Planar 75/3.5 lens. Heidosmat 75mm F2.8 viewing lens. Synchro-Compur MXV shutter 1/500 to 1, B. Optional coupled meter, has detachable hood, improved focus screen, eye level viewing. 12/24 Frame Counter. Bay II. "White Face" versions get big premium, distance scale in meters AND feet. 6 element lenses.
Rolleiflex 2.8F Type 1
-Serial # 2400000-2442133 from 1960-66. 80mm Planar F2.8. Coupled Meter, Detachable hood, improved focus screen. Synchro-Compur shutter 1/500 to 1, B. Bay III. 12 frame counter, 12/24 counter optional as an add on. 1965-66 models accepted plate glass back.
Rolleiflex 2.8F Type 2
-Serial # 2442132-2984999 from 1965-81. Early, mostly 80mm Planar F2.8 lens. Factory installed 12/24 Frame counter. 1966 version still accepted plate glass back, post 1967 does not. Post 1973 models were mostly fitted with 80mm Xenotar F2.8 lens. Coupled Meter was optional, but most were installed. Synchro-Compur shutter 1/500 to 1, B.Bay III. Factory 12/24 Frame counter. "White Face" shutter versions and serial #'s starting 295**** and above can fetch up to $ 3,500*
Rolleiflex 2.8F Aurum
1983/4. First "Special Edition" Rolleiflex 2.8, Gold plating, 80mm Xenotar F2.8 lens. About 1500 made.
Rolleiflex 2.8F Platin
1984 issuance of the 2.8F Platin Edition. Serial 298xxxx. 500 made. Newly manufactured Rollei ( licensed by Zeiss ) 80mm Planar lens.
Rolleiflex 2.8GX Type I
Serial # starts at 2985501. 1987-1994. 80mm Planar HFT F2.8 lens. LED Meter readout. Bay III. 120 film only.
Rolleiflex 2.8GX '89-91 Edition
Serial # starts at 4 and 5 mill. 1989-1991. 1500 made. 80mm Planar HFT F2.8 lens. LED Meter readout. Bay III. Alligator leather, Gold plated nameplate.
Rolleiflex 2.8GX Expression 94
1994 issuance of the 2.8GX "Expression 94" Edition. Serial 901xxxx. 500 made. 80mm Planar HFT F2.8 lens. LED Meter readout. Bay III.
Rolleiflex 2.8GX Helmut Newton
1994 issuance of the 2.8GX "Helmut Newton" Limited Edition. Grey. Serial 603xxxx. 80mm Planar HFT F2.8 lens. LED Meter readout. Bay III.
Rolleiflex 2.8GX Jersery Edition
Rolleiflex 2.8GX Type II "Expression"
The GX "Expression" is the 1995 update of the GX Type I, with new focus knob and Copal shutter. 1000 made. 80mm Planar HFT F2.8 lens. LED Meter readout. Bay III.
Rolleiflex 2.8GX Type II "75 Years"
1995. Brown Lizard print covering and Gold plated nameplate. 80mm Planar HFT F2.8 lens. LED Meter readout. Bay III.
Rolleiflex 2.8GX Royal
1996. 2.8GX "Royal" Limited Edition. Serial 200xx. Royal Blue finish.
Rolleiflex 2.8GX Type II "80 Years"
Tele-Rolleiflex Type 1
Serial # 2300000-2306419. From 1959-65. About 6420 made. Sonnar 135mm F4.0 lens. 120 Film only, Accepts plate glass back. Bay III.
Tele-Rolleiflex "Transition" Type
Serial # 2306420-2306871. From 1965-66. About 452 made. Sonnar 135mm F4.0 lens. 120 and 220 Film. Accepts plate glass back. Bay III.
Tele-Rolleiflex Type 2
Serial # 2306872-2308489. From 1966-75 About 1618 made. Sonnar 135mm F4.0 lens. 120 and 220 Film. Does not accepts plate glass back. Bay III. The Sportsfinder opening on the W/L finder differs from the Type 1 Tele-Rollei in that it has some empty "space" around the frame to be able to see beyond the lenses taking view. "White Face" versions.
Wide-Rolleiflex Type 1
Serial # 2490000-2493501. About 3502 made. From 1961-65 Distagon 55mm F4.0 lens. 120 film only. Bay IV.
Wide-Rolleiflex Type 2
Serial # 2493502-2493905. About 404 made. From 1965-67 Distagon 55mm F4.0 lens. 120 and 220 film. Bay IV.
Latest version, wide angle lens, Rolleiflex available. 50mm Super Angulon 4.0 HFT lens. LED Meter readout. Bay III. 120 film only. It sells for $ 5,555 new, as of 11/07.
Latest version, tele angle lens, Rolleiflex available. 135mm Tele Xenar 4.0 HFT lens. LED Meter readout. Bay III. 120 film only. It sells for $ 5,850 new, as of 11/07. Sold example at $ 3500 on Dec 22, '07 on ebay.
Latest version, normal lens, Rolleiflex available. 80mm Planar 2.8 HFT lens. LED Meter readout. Bay III. 120 film only. It sell for $ 4,444 new, as of 11/07.
The Rolleiflex Story
The Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex Camera was basically an instant success from the time the first model reached the market in 1929. After producing many different models with continual upgrades, in December 1949, Franke & Heidecke introduced its first f/2.8 taking lens into a Rolleiflex, namely the 80mm Tessar 2.8 (of pre-war manufacture). The camera that featured this lens is known as the Rolleiflex 2.8 A model. Only sold in the US, this camera with its fast Tessar lens was poorly recieved and was frequently cited as being soft. One source* states that half of these cameras were returned to Franke & Heidecke as part of a recall. Supposedly, the construction of these Tessars was faulty and the Rolleiflex 2.8 A was a commercial flop for Franke & Heidecke which resulted in the creation of the Rolleiflex 2.8 B camera (Feb. 1952) with a new lens; the 80mm f/2.8 Zeiss Biometar constructed with 5 elements. Again, this model was only sold in the US with a mere 1,250 models produced (versus 9,870 model 2.8 A cameras) given issues with post war supplies. While the Biometar produced much better results than the Tessar 2.8, given the tiny production, it wasn't until Franke & Heidecke brought to market the Rolleiflex 2.8 C in December of 1952 with a Schneider Xenotar 5 element lens, that Rollei proved it could produce a f/2.8 TLR that could compete with the resolution of their f/3.5 models while providing a lens speed advantage. * http://rollei.org.uk/the-rolleiflex-2-8b/
Shortly after the "C" model came to market, in May of 1953*, Modern Photography magazine published the following article by Arthur Kramer:
The New Rollei. How Good is the New $385 Model 2.8C
"The camera's most important feature is its new 80mm, air-spaced five-element f/2.8 Schneider Xenotar lens. The f/2.8 lens on a previous model was a four-element objective [80mm f/2.8 Tessar on the Rolleiflex 2.8A] which often gave trouble when used wide open. The makers of the Rolleiflex claim this trouble has been eliminated in the Xenotar lens. Optical and practical tests (which we will get to later) indicated that this was true - at least on the cameras tested....
Finally we get to the most important of all the improvements - the lens. This is not the first f/2.8 lens ever put on a 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 Rollei. Many photographers who have used or tested the previous f/2.8 model, which this new camera supersedes, felt that the definition was not up to their acceptable standards. Wide aperture lenses which must cover comparatively large film areas are often notoriously poor in edge definition at full aperture. Practically all Automatic Rolleiflexes have up to this time been supplied with four element Tessar or Xenar f/3.5 or Tessar f/2.8 lenses. The new Xenotar is a five-element lens of the air-spaced type. It was not until the advent of modern optical coatings that the full advantage of such a design could be exploited.
The camera was taken to a well-equipped optical laboratory and placed on an optical bench. The lens appeared to be free of astigmatism. It showed no shift of focus when stopped down. There seemed to be the faintest trace of flare at f/2.8 but this disappeared when the diaphragm was stopped down to about f/3, a definite improvement in this respect to what we had previously seen in other lenses of similar focal length and aperture. The definition at the edges was far above that of the old four-element f/2.8. This individual Xenotar lens looked excellent in bench tests, but that did not guarantee excellent pictures. Only extensive tests on actual film could tell about that….
The camera was also checked for lens, film, and ground glass alignment. Then it was ready for the film tests. An f/3.5 Rollei of known image quality was used as a control unit The first test was made on a cross-lit brick wall A series of shots was taken at various distances and apertures with both cameras. Negatives were carefully enlarged to about 30x30 inches and examined over the entire field. Results showed that the Xenotar f/2.8 lens wide open was equal in most respects to the f/3.5 lens wide open. It did not noticeably lose definition when stopped down to f/22. A second Xenotar tested actually had better definition at f/2.8 than the older type lens had at f/3.5! The tests were repeated on various objects and at varied distances with the same result. Twenty rolls or film were used on a variety of subjects. Results were consistently good.”
* Most online sources of this article incorrectly date this article to May 1952 but its actually May 1953
The model C with a Xenotar lens would be made until 1955. In 1954, Rollei also produced the model C with a Zeiss Planar lens of 5 elements. This would be the first appearence of the famous Rolleiflex 2.8 Planar lens. All in all, over 30,000 model C cameras were produced; more with Xenotars than Planars given their later appearence in the production run.
Rollei's next 2.8 camera was the model "D" produced in 1955. Also, produced with either a Xenotar or Planar 2.8 taking lens, just over 20,000 of these cameras were made. In general, Rollei priced their cameras with Xenotar lenses as slightly less expensive than those featuring Planar lenses.
In 1956, Rollei brought out the model "E" 2.8 cameras - yet again making these available with either a Xenotar or Planar 2.8 taking lens. By 1960, over 45,000 model E cameras were made. Also in 1956, Rollei began producing new f/3.5 model cameras featuring either the 5 element Planar lens or 5 element Xenotar lens - slower versions of their bigger sister f/2.8 lenses. These models are known as the Rolleiflex 3.5 E cameras.
All of these exciting improvements to the Rolleiflex line further solidified their position as king of the Twin Lens Reflex cameras. Inevitably, this led to questions as to which Rolleiflex cameras performed better - the 2.8 or 3.5 cameras ? In May of 1956, Modern Photography published an article comparing the new 5 element Xenotar on the Rolleiflex 3.5E compared to older Rolleiflex models with 4 element Tessar lenses.
Are the new Rolleis Really Better? "Now lets take a look at that five element f/3.5 lens. It's no secret that there was a cry from professional photographers for a Rolleiflex with an f/2.8 lens and that these camera enthusiasts only got what they wanted when a five element optical system was developed.
With a maximum f/3.5 aperture in 75mm focal lengths, the story has been quite different. The four element Zeiss Tessar and Schneider Xenar 75mm f/3.5 lenses have long been standards of excellence for Rolleis and many other cameras. What more can the new Xenotar five element offer? For all but the most persnickety professional, a good Xenar or Tessar will do nicely. Testing the new Xenotar against a good example of a Schneider Xenar, the resulting picture definition with both lenses was almost identical. This is not to disparage the new Xenotar but rather point out that a good four element Xenar or Tessar can be a very good lens indeed. Perhaps the Xenotar proved a shade sharper in the corners at full aperture than the Xenar. However, in actual photographic practice we doubt that this difference would be perceptible. Xenar or Xenotar? They're both fine lenses."
In 1957, more interesting comparions were done by Modern Photography;
Great Cameras? Fact or Fiction Rolleis have always had a great reputation. Do they still deserve it? "Which Lens is Best? Four or Five Element, F/2.8 or F/3.5 A. 80mm f/2.8 Zeiss Planar is a five-element alternative to the Xenotar on the Rolleiflex 2.8E. Although the line-up of optical elements is rather different from the Xenotar, performance is similar. It produces excellent definition to the corners of the negative, even at full aperture.
B. 80mm f/2.8 Schneider Xenotar has five elements and can be had on the Rolleiflex 2.8E. In extensive tests with this lens Modern found it extremely sharp in overall definition. The five-element 80mm f/2.8 lenses are considerable improvements over the discontinued four-element 80mm f/2.8 Tessars once available on the Rolleiflex 2.8.
C. 75mm f/3.5 Zeiss Planar is a five element alternative to the Xenotar on the Rolleiflex 3.5. It shows excellent definition even at full aperture.
D. 75mm f/3.5 Schneider Xenotar with five elements has now completely replaced the four element Xenar on all Rolleiflexes. Differences in definition between the discontinued four-element Xenar and this five-element Xenotar at f/3.5 are almost impossible to see, even with great magnification of the negative corners. Definition, to say the least, is excellent in the 75mm f/3.5 Xenotar.
E. 75mm and 60mm Schneider Xenar are available on the Rolleicord Va and Rolleiflex 4x4 respectively. The Xenar design is of a traditional four-element Tessar-type construction. Performance at such moderate aperture (f/3.5) and focal length (75mm) is excellent compared with that of the 75mm f/3.5 five-element Xenotars and Planars."
The 2.8 and 3.5 Planars and Xenotars would continue to garner acclaim from professionals, amateurs and photography magazines through the late 1950s and 1960s. These have been called the golden years for Rolleiflex.
Once again, Modern Photography decided it would test the various models with different lenses to try and settle what had become (and remains) a debate; which is better, the Planar or Xenotar. In many ways by pricing the Xenotar slightly (~5%) cheaper than the Planar, many thought Rollei themselves signified the Planar was superior, but many people (including modern users) will argue which is better. At the end of the day, both lenses are highly capable and it really comes down to quality control and owning an excellent example of either lens type.
Here's Modern Photography's October 1963 testing from the article, 4 Different Rolleis, 4 Different Lenses
As a summary to the test above, it appears that the 2.8 Xenotar is "better" for center sharpness overall than the Planar, but the Planar is moderately superior for edge sharpness. For the 3.5 lenses, it appears that the Planar is superior both in center and edge sharpness. But again, this is not a large sample size and I bet in normal shooting, the differences are hard to see.
The model 2.8 E would go on to be produced until 1965 with about 53,000 total units produced. The 3.5 E model cameras were also produced until 1965 but at some point before 1965 (probably 1962 +/- 1 year), the 3.5 Planar and Xenotar lenses were further developed into 6 element lenses. It remains a mystery as to why this was done. Some Rollei experts mention the additional element was a UV or color correction filter* to produce warmer images. Others state Franke & Heidecke wanted to improve the resolution** of the 5 element Planar and Xenotar lenses. And finally, another group of people state this was done to lower production costs. My sources indicate that the switch to the 6 element lens on the 3.5 E models occured after lens serial # 2753002 for the Planar and after # 2299547 for the Xenotar. * Ian Parker ** Claus Prochnow
After the 2.8 E model camera (which ran until 1965), came the famous 2.8 F model in 1960 which sold all the way until 1981, again fitted with either a 80mm 2.8 Planar or Xenotar lens. For the 3.5 camera line, the 3.5 F models arrived in 1958 with either a 75mm 5 element Planar or Xenotar lens, but just like the early 1960s E models, the switch to 6 element lenses came into play. Again, my sources indicate that the switch to the 6 element lens on the 3.5 F models occured after lens serial # 2753002 for the Planar and after # 2299547 for the Xenotar.
Today, many collectors and users seek out the late model 3.5 E and 3.5 F model cameras that have a 6 element lens. Their remains a premium for these models given they are the only Rolleiflex TLRs produced with a 6 element normal lens.